Climbing Mount Nopungguk, the mini Mt. Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu is not the only mountain in Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This highest mountain of Malaysia has many “sibling” mountains, for example, Mount Tambuyukon (2,642 Metres, 3rd highest mountain in Malaysia), Mount Nombuyukong (1,604 Metres).
Mount Nopungguk (1,430 Metres or 4,692 Feet) is only about 1/3 the height of Mt. Kinabalu (4,096 Metres). It’s part of Kinabalu Park so climbers need to apply a permit and hire a park guide to enter. The climb is not overly challenging and a taste of botanical tour in this UNESCO site already makes your trip worthwhile. More than 1,000 climbers have climbed Mount Nopungguk. I’m one of them.
The climbing trip is easy to arrange. I stayed one night in Nopungguk Homestay in Kampung Gansurai (Village) of Kota Belud, the starting point of the climb. Next morning around 6am, we gathered for a short briefing by the guide. The mountain guides with us were Disiol Egong, Nickalso Sabin, and David Summoring. Without them, we could lose our way easily in the forest.
A height of 1,430 Metres may sound too much to beginners. But our starting point is 400 Metres above sea level, so we actually needed to climb up about 1,030M more Metres. Hiking one KM of hilly path to move up is tiring, but not too bad if we go slow. All of us made it to the top.
The trail to the summit of Mount Nopungguk is about 6 Kilometres (3.7 Miles) in distance and would take 2 to 3 hours, depends on your fitness. At first we walked in the wood of countryside. The trees got denser and we were moving quietly in the dark. The first 3 KM is quite ok. We passed by Mirolian Stone and Rafflesia Park but didn’t stop to look around because it was still dark. Then we reached the shelter and campsite named Posiduan.
After short break, we moved on to the steep trails ahead. The steepest section is Purak Pakou trail, which is literally translated as “white buttock trail”. Why? Because in old days, women wore sarong skirt but no underwear inside. When they walked up to the steep slope, the people behind them could see their butt, like what happens to mini-skirt girl who uses escalator lol.
By 8:40am, most of us have reached the peak of Mount Nopungguk and enjoyed the magnificent view of Mt. Kinabalu up-close. It’s a long climb but quite manageable. I would rate the climb as medium in difficulty. The trail could be very slippery after rain. The lurking blood sucking leeches are also a nuisance (can block them with anti-leech socks). The good thing was we were walking in a forested mountain so the tree shade protected us from heat.
After reaching the peak and take some photographs, we will descend via another trail, where we can visit the waterfall and cave on the way back. However, I was descending in the same path where I climbed up, because we have sent one photographer to take photos in another trail.
As more light coming, we explored the attractions such as Mirolian Stone, which is a big three tiers granite boulders. There is a small cave under the rock with a flat stone that looks like a coffin, and hence its name Coffin Cave (Gua Keranda).
The adjacent Rafflesia Park is famous for its Rafflesia keithii, the biggest flower of Sabah and Rhizanthes lowii, another type of corpse flower under same family. However, their blooming flower lasts less than a week so sighting is rare. There are some wild orchid and hundred-year-old tall rainforest trees around.
You can play Titanic with your other half with Titanic Stone, which looks like a sinking ship.
Then I saw the freaking giant Lingzhi, the biggest mushroom that I’ve ever see. In Chinese Kungfu drama, I always hear the legend that thousand-year-old Lingzhi is a super herb that can cure any serious illness and even revive the death. According to a lingzhi expert I know, he says lingzhi is not the older the better. Usually 10 years old lingzhi has the best medical properties.
When morning light hit these lingzhi, I noticed that they were smoking. It’s spore dispersal that releases millions of seeds (spores) to the wild. Awesome!
Besides these amazing nature wonders, visitors can see Goniothalamus Ridleyi tree (pokok tuhub), Panaradan Waterfall, Gua Kinoulawon (cave), and big snake vine in another trail that I didn’t visit. May be next time then.
The following is the standard time table for the climb. If you want to see sunrise on the peak, you would have to move as early as 2am.
|4:20am||Gather for briefing at Nopungguk Homestay (Starting Point)|
|6:00am||Reach Mirolian Stone & Rafflesia Park / Mirolian Hut
Titanic Stone, Gua Kelawar, Gua Keranda, Batu Bertingkat (Mirolian Stone), Lingzhi, rafflesia
|6:30am||Hike to the summit of Mount Nopungguk|
|8:30am||Reach the peak of Mount Nopungguk|
|10:00am||Head back to starting point (via different trail)|
|1:00pm||Reach Panaradan Waterfall *lunch & swimming|
|2:20pm||Reach Gua Kinoulawon (Cave)|
|3:10pm||Reach Nopungguk Homestay|
|3:30pm||High tea at homestay|
Note: Only a maximum of 20 hikers per day can climb Mt. Nopungguk, to minimize the impact to the environment
Where to Stay
To start climbing very early in the morning, you are advised to overnight in Kota Belud. Nopungguk Homestay should be your first choice because it’s the starting point and they can get a permit and guide for your climb. This homestay has 18 rooms (dormitory beds and standard rooms) and about 84 KM (52 Miles) away from Kota Kinabalu City.
Below is more info of Nopungguk Homestay:
GPS Coordinates: 6.202036, 116.488756 (see Location Map)
Website: Facebook, sabahhomestay.my, mynopungguk.blogspot.com
Phone: +60 16-8379681 (Mr. Sarun Lambut)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Things to Bring
Water + bottle, backpack, anti-leech socks, raincoat / poncho, hiking stick, phone, energy bars, warm clothing (light jacket), swim wear, toiletries (tooth brush, tooth paste, toilet paper, face wash, towel, etc.)
Photos taken in Kota Belud, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo